34 Dinner and Pencils For the Fourth Miss

    It was evening once more, and both Madam Zhang and the tailor were gone, leaving Yujia alone with Hui'er in the dim candlelight of the room.

    Yujia carefully examined the pencil she held in her hand, the top of the pencil shaved off so that it resembled one and would function just like one. With the pencil, she pulled over a piece of paper and drew a slanted mark down the paper, finding that it was at the darkness that she desired.

    Pouring all that graphite into the mixture did some good, after all.

    Hui'er watched as her Fourth Miss continued working with the "pencil" she had in her hand. It was puzzling to see the wooden stick that the Fourth Miss held in her hand slowly create a drawing on the paper, the lines resulting from the stick coming together to resemble a flower.

    Everything was certainly puzzling. Traditionally, art was always created with water, an inkstone, and a brush. How could the Fourth Miss use such a primitive looking tool to scratch on the paper? And how come the picture that was slowly being formed on the paper transforming into something so wonderful?

    Triumphantly, Yujia watched as the pencil in her hand proved to work like the ones she used back in the modern world. The darkness was about as similar as a 2B pencil, and this also proved to Yujia that by adding different amounts of graphite, different pencil values could be created.

    Quickly, the flower she was drawing as a test was finished, and Yujia set the pencil down carefully on the table.

    "Hui'er, we succeeded!"

    Turning to her maid, Yujia raised her arms up excitedly in a cheer, proud of her creation and the pencil in her hand. She was one step closer to her goal.

    Although Hui'er still didn't particularly understand, she gave a cheerful smile. "Miss, now that you're finished with all this, would you like dinner? I'm sure you're hungry from all the robe fitting all day long."

    Yujia nodded. "That would be excellent." She really was hungry. Leave it to Hui'er to understand when she needed things and what she needed.

    While Hui'er went out of the room to go to the kitchens and pick up dinner, Yujia stood up from the chair and table she was sitting at, going across the room and grabbing the pencil-making materials that Hui'er decided to store in a small cabinet against the wall so that she could retrieve the materials easily. During the day, while Yujia was with the tailor, Hui'er had also gone to the market to ask a pottery artisan for some clay, spending only three taels to get a whole block of the material as well as some extra graphite.

    Now, Yujia peeled off half of the clay block, tossing it in a basin with only a little bit of water and mixing it well. After that, she separated the portion of clay and water into smaller sections, adding in different amounts of graphite to each portion so that the darkness values would be different. Yujia placed each mixture in the different molds, and by the time that she was finished, she used up nearly all her molds to make twelve pencils, all of different darkness so she could shade with different values easily.

    By the time that Hui'er came back, holding the usual plate of rice, vegetables, and three pieces of pork, Yujia was finished with what she was doing, going forward to excitedly take the food from Hui'er but then recalling that she was supposed to get used to her "Fourth Miss" persona more. Yujia slowed down in movements and sat back down, waiting for Hui'er to set the table for her.

    While Hui'er did her task, Yujia asked a question that had been resting in her mind for a while.

    "Hui'er, what exactly is going on with Yang Qingxia?"

    Once the question slipped out, Hui'er seemed to freeze for just a moment, the briefest of a second, before returning back to normal. Yujia noticed it.

    "Oh, Miss." Hui'er gave Yujia a relaxed smile. "I did tell you before that the First Miss didn't have a good past? The First Miss... she had a miscarriage on this day, four years ago. I forgot about it, but since you reminded me, today is the date. Surely, today, when she saw you wearing the wedding robes, she must've remembered her own past and her child."

    Thoughtfully, Yujia nodded. So, that was the case.

    A miscarriage? Although Yujia was not informed of the entire story, she knew that the death of the unborn child certainly had a lasting impact on Yang Qingxia. Her cold, constrained attitude towards Yujia made sense now. In fact, Yujia almost felt guilty for being so insensitive of the topic.

    "Are you sure you know nothing more about this, Hui'er?" While picking up a piece of sweet pork between her chopsticks, Yujia asked again.

    "No, I really don't, Miss." Quickly, Hui'er shook her head. "But- oh- Miss, did you hear of what happened? I'm sure you haven't because you were stuck with the tailor all day. One of the Old Master's antiques were stolen. One of the expensive ones too. I heard from the other servants that he was truly furious over it..."

    As Hui'er continued on with her story, Yujia listened half-heartedly and ate her meal slowly. Her thoughts were still focused on Yang Qingxia.

    She didn't want to have a bad relationship with this new sister of hers just because of what occured today. Sometime soon, she would have to think of a way to make up for what happened earlier...
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